Living Enterprises

  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /var/www/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 879.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument::init() should be compatible with views_handler::init(&$view, $options) in /var/www/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Non-static method views_many_to_one_helper::option_definition() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /var/www/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument_many_to_one.inc on line 36.
  • strict warning: Non-static method views_many_to_one_helper::option_definition() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /var/www/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument_many_to_one.inc on line 36.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /var/www/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_submit() should be compatible with views_handler::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /var/www/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_boolean_operator::value_validate() should be compatible with views_handler_filter::value_validate($form, &$form_state) in /var/www/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter_boolean_operator.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /var/www/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 879.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_field_user::init() should be compatible with views_handler_field::init(&$view, $options) in /var/www/sites/all/modules/views/modules/user/views_handler_field_user.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /var/www/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /var/www/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 0.

Agenda: Advance the transition to an economic system populated by locally owned, human-scale living enterprises.

A living enterprise is rooted in a community of place, works in harmony with natural systems, supports vibrant community life, provides meaningful living-wage jobs, treats profit as a means rather than an end, and cooperates with like-minded businesses to create community wealth for all stakeholders. Because those who own rule, a democratic society is necessarily an ownership society

Appropriate supporting policies favor locally owned human-scale enterprises, support cooperative worker, consumer, or community ownership, and hold enterprises and their primary decision makers accountable for maintaining at least the same ethical standards expected of any responsible adult.

The Cost of Wall Street's Failure

In contemporary societies, the institutions of business powerfully shape our individual and collective identity, values, and relationships, economic choices, and priorities. How we define the purpose, values, and reward structures of the prevailing forms of enterprise has far-reaching implications and merits careful consideration.

For some thirty years, Wall Street interests rewrote the rules of commerce to facilitate the concentration of virtually unlimited economic power in global corporations that operated beyond the reach of public accountability for the sole purpose of maximizing financial returns to their owners and top managers.

The corporate forms favored by Wall Street were extremely successful in doing what they were designed to do, expand consumption to generate profits for Wall Street. Their "success," however, comes at a terrible cost to society in the form of extreme inequality, stagnant wages, deteriorating public services and infrastructure, skyrocketing health care costs, wasteful consumption, collapsing environmental systems, resource wars, and the toxic poisoning of air, water, and soils.

The Business of Business is to Serve

Every human has a responsibility to behave in a way consistent with the well-being of others and the community at large. A human institution that represents an aggregation of economic power far beyond that of the average person can scarcely be absolved of comparable responsibility for how that power is used.  

Financial return is a reward for service rendered to the community in response to market demand. Therefore, the owners of an enterprise are entitled to a financial return on their investment only to the extent that the enterprise performs a useful service. The extraction of financial gain unrelated to the production of real value is a form of theft and is properly prohibited by society. [click here to read more]

Living Enterprises for Living Economies

There are numerous enterprise forms that link the interests of the enterprise to the interests of the people, communities, and natural systems of the places where it does business.  We call them living enterprises because they have living owners and relate to the living communities in which they operate in ways similar to the relationship of a healthy living cell to the healthy living body it both serves and would not exist without. At their best, living enterprises work in harmony with natural systems, support vibrant community life, provide meaningful living-wage jobs, treat profit as a means rather than an end, and cooperate with like-minded businesses to create community wealth for all stakeholders. [click here to read more]

A Wealth of Living Enterprise Forms

Living enterprises may take on a variety of organizational forms. They may, for example, be organized as consumer cooperatives, worker-owned corporations, community corporations, partnerships, family businesses, or simple sole proprietorships—all of which involve rooted, engaged ownership. Contrary to the claims of market fundamentalists, there is no reason that all enterprises should be profit maximizing. There are many needs—health insurance, electricity, water, and banking among them—that may best be met by community owned, non-profit, or cooperative enterprises. [click here to read more]

Invisible Emergence

Corporate forms of enterprise with shared rooted community ownership play a far greater role in the American economy than generally realized. In America Beyond Capitalism Gar Alperovitz estimates that this new locally rooted, shared ownership enterprise sector includes 11,000 employee-owned firms, co-op enterprises with a total membership of more than 120 million members), 4,600 neighborhood corporations and numerous quasi-public land trusts and municipal businesses (including 2,000 public electric utilities). [See "The Economic Revolution Is Already Happening -- It's Just Not on Wall Street,"]

In October 2009, the United Steelworkers union announced a collaboration with the Mondragon Cooperatives in Spain to establish Mondragon-style manufacturing cooperatives in the United States and Canada. This could be a breakthrough moment for both the cooperatives and union movements in North America. Imagine labor unions using their pension funds to create their own private equity investment companies that buy out the shareholders of publicly traded corporations, break up the corporations, and convert them to community-rooted worker-owned cooperatives. In Los Angeles, the teachers union is sponsoring its own teachers to compete with private firms for contracts to operate charter schools. The teachers involved are thrilled by the prospect of being able to really demonstrate what they can do to organize the schools in ways that enrich the educational experience of their students. 

Public Policy

Our future economic health depends on advancing public policies that favor living enterprises and insulate them from unfair competition from corporate predators. Such policies would include rigorous antitrust enforcement to break up concentrations of corporate power and give employees or the communities in which the employees live first option to purchase the divested units.

Public policy might require a corporation that decides to sell or close a local plant to give its workers or other community minded interests in the affected community an option to buy the assets on preferential terms. During bankruptcy proceedings, employees and communities should have the option of paying off creditors at discounted rates and taking possession of the corporation’s remaining assets. Rules governing company pension funds might allow their use by employees to purchase voting control of the firm’s assets.

Government oversight should assure that worker and community buyouts are structured to give workers and communities real control—in contrast to many employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) that vest control in management.